Zhihui Fang on SFL-Informed Literacy Education


  • Zhihui Fang University of Florida
  • Yanmei Gao Peking University
  • Chengzhu Yin Peking University
  • Hanbing Li Beijing Information Science and Technology University




systemic functional linguistics; literacy education; knowledge construction; language development


As appliable linguistics, systemic functional linguistics (SFL) has been widely applied in various areas of education – in studies of classroom discourse, in teacher training, curriculum development, etc. Zhihui Fang is a leading scholar who has applied systemic functional linguistics in the development of pedagogical models for secondary literacy education. In this interview, Yanmei Gao, Chengzhu Yin and Hanbing Li ask Zhihui Fang about the applicability of systemic functional linguistics in literacy education, especially in the United States. They also discuss the possible influence of the new developments of the Sydney School, such as genre relations, on content areas teaching practice.

Author Biographies

Zhihui Fang, University of Florida

Zhihui Fang (PhD, Purdue University) is currently the Irving and Rose Fien Endowed Professor of Education at the University of Florida, USA. He has published widely in the areas of language and literacy education, functional linguistics in education, and English teacher education. His recent research explores the varied ways knowledge and ideology are constructed through language across different academic disciplines, the challenges these ways of using language present to reading comprehension and written composition, and pedagogical strategies for addressing these challenges.

Yanmei Gao, Peking University

Yanmei Gao is an associate professor of linguistics at the Institute of Linguistics and Applied Linguistics of the School of Foreign Languages, Peking University. Her research and teaching foci are systemic functional linguistics, semantics, stance, and foreign language education.

Chengzhu Yin, Peking University

Chengzhu Yin is currently a PhD student at the Institute of Linguistics and Applied Linguistics of the School of Foreign Languages, Peking University. His research interests include language education, language landscape, and sociolinguistics.

Hanbing Li, Beijing Information Science and Technology University

Hanbing Li received her PhD at Peking University and is currently lecturer at Beijing Information Science and Technology University. Her research areas cover systemic functional linguistics, verbal arts, and English education.


Christie, F. and Derewianka, B. M. (2008) School Discourse: Learning to Write across the Years of Schooling. London: Continuum.

Halliday, M.A.K. (2016) Aspects of Language and Learning. Edited by Jonathan J. Webster. New York: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-47821-9 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-47821-9

Maton, K. (2014) Knowledge and Knowers: Towards a Realist Sociology of Education. New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203885734 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203885734

Selected Work of Zhihui Fang


Fang, Z. (2021) Demystifying Academic Writing: Genres, Moves, Skills and Strategies. New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003131618 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003131618

Fang, Z. (2020) Using Functional Grammar in English Literacy Teaching and Learning. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press.

Fang, Z., with Lamme, L. and Pringle, R. (2010) Language and Literacy in Inquiry-Based Science Classrooms, Grades 3–8. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press and Arlington, VA: National Science Teachers Association Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4135/9781452219677

Fang, Z. and Schleppegrell, M. (2008) Reading in Secondary Content Areas: A Language-Based Pedagogy. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press. https://doi.org/10.3998/mpub.309314 DOI: https://doi.org/10.3998/mpub.309314


Patrick, J. and Fang, Z. (2021) High school science teachers learning to teach reading through a functional focus on language: Toward a grounded theory of teacher learning. In L. Seah, R. Silver and M. Baildon (eds) Teachers’ Knowledge of the Role of Language in Content Pedagogy. London: Springer. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-19-5351-4_4

Fang, Z., Adams, B., Li, C., Gallingane, C., Jo, S., Fennessy, M. and Chapman, S. (2017) Supporting ELs in learning to write scientifically: A genre-based approach. In M. Daniel (ed) English Learners at the Top of the Class: Reading and Writing for Authentic Purposes, 67–82. New York: Rowman and Littlefield.

Fang, Z. (2016) Academic language and subject area learning. In K. Hinchman and D. Appleman (eds) Adolescent Literacy Handbook of Practice-Based Research, 323–340. New York: Guilford.

Fang, Z. and Chapman, S. (2015) Enhancing English learners’ access to disciplinary texts through close reading practices. In M. Daniel and M. Kouider (eds) Research and Practice that Makes a Difference in English Learners’ Success, 3–18. New York: Rowan and Littlefield.

Fang, Z., Schleppegrell, M. and Moore, J. (2013) The linguistic challenges of learning across academic disciplines. In A. Stone, E. Silliman, B. Ehren, B. and G. Wallach (eds) Handbook of Language and Literacy: Development and Disorders (2nd edition), 302–322. New York: Guilford Press.

Fang, Z. (2012) The challenges of reading disciplinary texts. In T. Jetton and C. Shanahan (eds) Adolescent Literacy in the Academic Disciplines: General Principles and Practical Strategies, 34–68. New York: Guilford Press.


Fang, Z., Gresser, V., Cao, P. and Zheng, J. (2021) Nominal complexities in school children’s informational writing. Journal of English for Academic Purposes 50. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeap.2021.100958 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeap.2021.100958

Fang, Z. and Chapman, S. (2020) Disciplinary literacy in mathematics: One mathematician’s reading practices. Journal of Mathematical Behavior 59. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmathb.2020.100799 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmathb.2020.100799

Fang, Z. (2020) Toward a linguistically informed, responsive and embedded pedagogy in secondary literacy instruction. Journal of World Languages 6(1–2): 70–91. https://doi.org/10.1080/21698252.2020.1720161 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/21698252.2020.1720161

Fang, Z., Cao, P. and Murray, N. (2020) Language and meaning making: Register choices in seventh- and ninth-grade students’ factual writing. Linguistics and Education 56. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.linged.2020.100798 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.linged.2020.100798

Fang, Z. and Park, J. (2020) Academic language in adolescents’ informational writing. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 33(1): 97–119. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-019-09937-8 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-019-09937-8

Zhu, S. and Fang, Z. (2019) Has the prose quality of science textbook improved over the past decade?: A linguistic perspective. Journal of World Languages 5(2): 113–131. https://doi.org/10.1080/21698252.2019.1575014 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/21698252.2019.1575014

Fang, Z., Adams, B., Gresser, V. and Li, C. (2019) Developing critical literacy through an SFL-informed pedagogical heuristic. English Teaching: Practice and Critique 18(1): 4–17. https://doi.org/10.1108/ETPC-01-2018-0009 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/ETPC-01-2018-0009

Fang, Z. (2016) Text complexity in the common core state standards: A linguistic critique. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy 39(3): 195–206.

Fang, Z. (2016) Teaching close reading with complex texts across content areas. Research in the Teaching of English 51(1): 106–116.

Fang, Z. (2015) Writing a report: A study of preadolescents’ use of informational language. Linguistics and the Human Sciences 10(2): 103–131. https://doi.org/10.1558/lhs.v10i2.28556 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1558/lhs.v10i2.28556

Fang, Z., Ferdig, R., Wang, Z. and Trutschel, B. (2014) Middle school students’ reading responses: A linguistic perspective. Writing and Pedagogy 6(3): 531–553. https://doi.org/10.1558/wap.v6i3.531 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1558/wap.v6i3.531

Fang, Z., Sun, Y., Chiu, C. and Trutschel, B. (2014) Inservice teachers’ perception of a language-based approach to content area reading. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy 37(1): 55–66.

Fang, Z. (2012) Language correlates of disciplinary literacy. Topics in Language Disorders 32(1): 19–34. https://doi.org/10.1097/TLD.0b013e31824501de DOI: https://doi.org/10.1097/TLD.0b013e31824501de

Fang Z. and Wang, Z. (2011) Beyond rubrics: Using functional language analysis to evaluate student writing. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy 34(2): 147–165.

Fang, Z. and Schleppegrell, M. (2010) Disciplinary literacies across content areas: Supporting secondary reading through functional language analysis. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 53(7): 587–597. https://doi.org/10.1598/JAAL.53.7.6 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1598/JAAL.53.7.6

Fang, Z., Schleppegrell, M. and Cox, B. (2006) Understanding the language demands of schooling: Nouns in academic registers. Journal of Literacy Research 38(3): 247–273. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15548430jlr3803_1 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1207/s15548430jlr3803_1



How to Cite

Fang, Z., Gao, Y., Yin, C., & Li, H. (2021). Zhihui Fang on SFL-Informed Literacy Education. Linguistics and the Human Sciences, 15(1), 39–51. https://doi.org/10.1558/lhs.19986